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Towards a Cosmopolitan World

Kemal Vural Tarlan*

Migration continues to be a fear for the north. Every day, tens of thousands of people migrate from south to north, crossing natural boundaries such as deserts, mountains, rivers, and seas, and reaching the man-made borders. The borders, once known by boundary stones, are now surrounded by wire fences, walls, and technological tools but are still permeable. Those who come to the edges of these borders somehow find ways to cross to the other side through the cracks of the border system made up of digital and concrete walls using the latest technology.

As long as climate change, the economic system created by capitalist production relations, and regional wars and conflicts continue, mass migrations will not stop. The world has entered an irreversible transformation, and in the coming years, especially the northern countries, the world will become more cosmopolitan. A process where the pure rapidly mixes has already begun. This is not only a racial mixing but also a period of adolescence in which everything existing, including language, geography, politics, literature, art, education, is mixing. This mixing is now unstoppable, but if the leaders of today’s nation-states come to their senses and manage this process better for the good of the world, the future of humanity and the world might be saved with less damage.

The Anthropocene, also known as the Age of Humans, where the impact of humankind on Earth has reached its highest level since the Industrial Revolution, could bring about the end of the world with its global climate, environmental, ecological, and economic crises. The crises created by the Anthropocene era cause global migrations, just like during the ice age process, but this migration process has accelerated with current technology and opportunities.

This migration process has become a nightmare for nation-states and their rulers. Those who fail to comprehend the reality of this process have created a strong anti-immigrant/refugee wave. Led by the far right, racist-fascist movements, but also including populists from liberals, conservatives, democrats, and leftists, have succumbed to the lust created by this wave. Anti-immigrant/refugee sentiment has become an important election tool for political parties and politicians today. In recent years, anti-immigrant parties have come to power in countries like Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia, and in the northern countries, especially in the last few years, anti-immigrant parties and movements are gaining strength. Perhaps in the next elections, Donald Trump will become president of the USA again because of this wave.

The strength of the anti-immigrant wave forces governments in northern countries to make new regulations on migration, asylum, and refugee issues. Like many northern countries, France approved a new anti-immigrant law at the end of 2023. Essentially, with these laws, these countries are trying to circumvent agreements and protocols regarding the legal status of refugees and immigrants, including the Geneva Convention they signed, trying to invalidate these documents, causing humanity to lose faith in universal law and human rights. But can these newly enacted laws and regulations, including existing polarization policies towards the newcomers, all the technology developed for border security, and the money spent, prevent the “immigrant issue” – which they consider the biggest problem of our time? Of course not, it only increases the price of human trafficking and smuggling markets. This situation turns migration routes into death paths. Every year, tens of thousands of people lose their lives on their journey without reaching their destination. But hundreds of thousands reach their destination regardless of borders and laws.

Today, in a world where global inequalities are increasing, migration and being an immigrant are rapidly increasing. Newcomers continue to build a new life, no matter how much they are marginalized and pushed out of social life by the existing anti-immigrant movement. After reaching their desired destination, in the new life established, no matter how much current policies want to make them invisible, it will remain an impossible effort in today’s world. Because, although there are global and regional crises pushing them towards there, there are also factors pulling them, and at the forefront of these is the need for cheap labor necessary for the capitalist market wheel to turn. As long as the new arrivals exist as reserve and cheap labor, the labor market will lose value, poverty will progress from bottom to top, engulfing the old ones as well. Today, especially among the middle classes, there is a significant orientation towards the anti-immigrant movement among the poor and workers. And especially right-wing populist politicians and racist fascist thought are strengthening within these segments of society.

Due to the current anti-immigrant wave, the conditions of immigrants in the world are rapidly deteriorating, but the number of asylum seekers is also increasing. Being pushed into the informal sector expands the informal labor market. Today’s world has entered the era of “mobile labor,” where labor is also in motion. Along with unskilled labor, the cross-border movement of educated-qualified labor is also increasing day by day. Cross-border labor transforms the labor market it enters. The labor market is rapidly turning to this cheap and reserve workforce. In the past, this transformation in labor markets would occur after regional and global wars, but the reasons have changed now; at the forefront is the disappearance of the resources of the south consumed by the north, leaving nothing but human labor.

Of course, this is not the only cause of global migration; climate change and ecological destruction increasingly affecting human and animal lives cause the concepts of climate and environmental justice to be redefined by the subjects exposed to these effects. The policies of local powers supported by the north for centuries, which disregard human life, power struggles, local and regional conflicts, are eliminating people’s “right to life.” Dictatorial and despotic regimes in these countries prevent their citizens from establishing a dignified life, access to justice, human rights, democracy, and the desire for a life worthy of human dignity, and many other reasons cause people to leave everything behind and hit the roads. Over the years, in the countries where newcomers arrive, the idea of being a refugee or a guest ends, and they start to struggle to be equal to the other citizens of the countries they live in.

Today, that “struggle to be equal” is rising as a new wave in the world. This year, the “World Migration and Development Forum” held in Geneva on January 23-25 hosted hundreds of activists, civil society organizations, and government representatives from the north and south. I do not know to what extent dozens of sessions and meetings within the forum met the expectations of northern hosts, but especially for the declaration of the “struggle to be equal” by the new generation of immigrants in the countries they live in, it was quite important. Young people from the source countries of migration and those who came with migration to the north, especially young women, shouted “We don’t want the future, we want today!” at every opportunity. In the mixing world, there is now a new and creative generation, workers in unregistered workshops, agricultural enterprises, factories, those working in offices, civil society, shops, those who start their own businesses, those who continue their education, this generation is everywhere in life.

They are aware of the reality of the constantly changing world they were born and raised in, they have witnessed it with their own lives, so they are stronger. Well-educated young Turks and Syrians in Turkey are leaving this country because we do not give them a chance to live a dignified life here. They are building new lives in the countries they go to.

Migrant workers heading from south to north start to organize against low wages and the cheapening of labor in the Gulf countries, Europe, North America, and other places they reach. Migrant worker unions, associations, and initiatives are sprouting all over the world. The continuous changes in national laws and regulations by the labor market to keep migrant labor cheap and exploit them do not deter them. When they start to recognize and settle into the labor market they enter in the countries they come to, they begin to understand how valuable their labor is for those labor markets and that the system needs them.

They try various ways to get out of the informal sectors and be included in the social security systems. They challenge the current situation that the valid system constantly pushes into informality, and holes are opened in social security systems in different parts of the world. In this period when unions are losing power, migrant worker union initiatives are starting to form in countries. In today’s world, where global economic crises are intensifying, the “struggle to be equal” is strengthening in the labor market. Especially this demand is advancing and strengthening with the energy of young women and the women’s movement.

These initiatives, as grassroots organizations, start to work for the fragile sections within the migrant community, especially women’s rights, while seeking the rights of migrant workers in the labor market, and this situation accelerates the formation of the diaspora. Although the concept of the homeland begins to blur over time among young generation migrants, the diaspora maintains communication with the source country, and this situation ensures the continuity of migration. On the one hand, the financial support provided to what is left behind – the money sent by Latin American immigrants from the USA to their families in 2023 was approximately 155 billion – ensures this continuity. For example, this relationship has created a very strong network between Mexico and the USA, and today thousands of institutions and activists are involved in this network. This network has the power to influence both US elections and Mexican elections, in some states.

The relationship established by the diaspora with the source country, while preserving its own culture, also provides resilience to exist in the country where it is located. The demand of the newcomer to exist with their own culture continues to be one of the most disturbing issues for the local community/the old ones. The complaint “They came and spoiled our culture!” is one of the most frequently heard sentences; a migrant artist expresses it like this: “That is our open wound, we continuously bleed as the locals touch it, and our cultural identity begins to form.” Expecting or imposing the newcomer to deny their own culture means nothing other than asking for the impossible. This identity isolates them in daily life, pushing them into immigrant ghettos. Today, culture continues to exist as a factor that constantly renews itself in different forms among immigrants. But the mixing world is changing them too, and they adapt to this change more quickly. The works of migrant artists and migrant writers are one of the areas where you can see the clues of the cosmopolitan world the most today.

Will the rising new wave in the mixing or cosmopolitan world be able to extinguish the anti-immigrant movement? “Grassroots movements” created by migrants are starting to sprout in the world, and the demand for equality and struggle within migrants, especially the nuclei of moving from halls to fields and streets, began to be seen in recent periods in countries like France and Germany. Its strengthening requires the expansion of the spaces where the old and the newcomers can negotiate the conditions of living together. Will the expansion of these living together spaces save the future of the world? I do not know, but the Anthropocene era is rapidly leading the world to extinction. The newcomers are the least responsible for climate and ecological crises.

The future of the world can only be sustainable with a system where equality, human rights, and justice are allocated, the environment is protected, and climate justice is provided, and in the cosmopolitan future world, this is only possible if the old and the new can manage to live together…

Kemal Vural Tarlan is a researcher, human rights activist and defender for Middle Esat Gypsies.

This article originally published in Birikim Magazine and translated into English by Politurco.

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